HOUMA, Louisiana — Improving teacher salaries, technology training and the classroom environment have become the focal points for a panel charged with determining needs in Terrebonne Parish public schools.
The Courier reported (http://bit.ly/Ig6juh) the 15-member task force also is trying to determine how to finance changes schools.
The panel was formed in July after the School Board and Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce decided to work on needs and solutions after voters rejected a proposal to more than quadruple property tax rates.
The proposal, which would have raised an estimated $25 million annually for building improvements, pay raises and other items, failed in May, with a 76 percent no vote.
An early focus of the group has been on ways to retain teachers.
"There is nothing more important than having excellent teachers," Sharon Bergeron, vice president of Coastal Commerce Bank, said during a meeting this past week.
Panel member Stephanie Hebert, a Houma insurance agency owner, said the task force should focus less on the teachers' facilities and more on retaining and honoring the teachers.
"The building issue is huge, but if we don't fix teacher pay and the technology issues, then the facilities don't matter," she said.
Chairwoman Jennifer Armand said the panel should identify a target student-to-teacher ratio. The more specific details the board can present to the public, the more likely voters are to buy into the measure, she said.
"Unless there is a detailed plan, the public and the community will never go for this," Hebert added.
Technology, a topic touched on only briefly in earlier meetings, was another focal point. The school district collects money earmarked for technology, such as computers and smart boards, through different sales taxes.
Panel members pointed out inconsistencies in technology throughout the district, from schools not having accessible computers to teachers not using the technology they've been given.
Teachers at the meeting said they weren't receiving proper training to use the technology.
Panel members also used fliers the board circulated on the tax plan to critique four major points: teachers, technology, universal pre-kindergarten and facility improvements.
Suggestions will be discussed at the next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 4 at the North Terrebonne Library in Gray. The panel is expected to draft a final proposal to recommend to the School Board in January.
Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com